A warm, dry wind blew through the beautiful Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, California as a crowd gathered early to hear the classic rock band Foreigner, on Sunday, June 9th. The show sold out within minutes after being announced several months ago. The gorgeous new amphitheater, in a spectacular rural mountain setting, joined with Nederlander Concerts several years ago to bring big-name musical acts to the region. The beautiful outdoor venue, which holds 3000 people is just big enough to attract headline acts. But virtually every seat in the house is visually and audibly a good one. The venue features wine by the glass or bottle from local vintners, beer from local brewers and gourmet food including wood-fired pizzas and organic hamburgers. The affordably priced offerings along with free parking, make the venue one of the best concert deals in California. An 11 PM curfew ensures plenty of time for bands to finish their sets. But the best part of the venue for rock music fans is the booming sound system. Without another structure in sight, the rural venue can blast the music as loud as they like. The amphitheater was topped with an extensive system towering high in the sky.
The opening set began just after 7 PM as the air temperature reached nearly triple digit numbers. Bay area rocker Tommy Odetto played a thirty minute of blues-drenched rock. The young singer-guitarist led a classic rock trio into familiar territory channeling his proclaimed musical heroes Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He dedicated his final number a scorching cover of Voodoo Child to the legendary guitarists.
Foreigner took the stage just after 8 PM as a spectacular sunset filled the clear evening sky. The animated band of veteran performers immediately launched into a set of many of their classic hits. Although none of the members were in the original group, the six veteran performers all have an impressive rock music history and have made the music of Foreigner their own over the years. The current lineup features Kelly Hansen on Vocals, Jeff Pilson on Bass, Bruce Watson on Lead Guitar, Tom Gimbel playing Flute, Rhythm Guitar and Saxophone, Michael Bluestein on Keyboard and Chris Frazier on Drums.
The band opened with some of their biggest hits including “Double Vision,” “Head Games” and “Dirty White Boy.” The band displayed acrobatic histrionics more associated with teenage rockers than with the aging classic rockers that they are. The mostly elderly crowd loved it motivating many of them to jump to their feet and dance and sing along to the well-known chorus lines. Early and the set charismatic singer Hansen bolted into the crowd and ran about nearly the entire amphitheater motivating fans and shaking hands. He also bantered with the crowd throughout the evening, endearing himself to the beaming audience. The band continued with more hits including “Feels Like The First Time,” “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero.”
The band ended with a double encore beginning with “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The song featured an emotive introduction by Hansen, asking everyone in the audience to give the person next to them a hug and many in the crowd complied. The band then brought out the Paso Robles High School to sing the beautiful ballad with the group. The band ended with an explosive version of “Hot Blooded” on a night that felt like summer had arrived at the beautiful Vina Robles Amphitheatre.